"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Monday, March 10, 2014

guest room updates

I know I haven't posted for awhile, and this will be a short and sweet post. I've been pretty busy and haven't found much time for projects. I have started something, but it will be quite awhile before I post about it.

Over the past few weeks, I've made some minor updates to our guest room. I added some curtains and a bookshelf. We already had blackout pull-down shades in there, but they weren't very interesting to look at (plain off-white). Plus, they aren't completely flush with the sides of the windows, so some light still gets in around them. In the morning, that side of the house gets the full rising sun, so I wanted to try to make it as much darker as possible. I found these on Overstock, and the colors looked just perfect to go with the dusty purple bedspread and gray walls. I got some curtain rods at Target. I positioned the rods so they'd come out about 2" on either side of the window and be about 4" above the window. All the screws went into studs. And so we went from this:

To this:

I also added some more shelves. I had put up some wall shelves in December, but I decided to replace those with a full bookshelf. I got one on Amazon for 40% off that closely resembled the Ikea Billy bookcase that I already have in there. (I didn't want another Ikea Billy because they don't come in true white, but more of an off-white. I had spray painted the one I had, but didn't want to do that again.)

Then I had two wall shelves that I had taken down from the wall where I put the new white bookshelf, so I added them to the wall above where there were already some shelves for my sewing/crafting supplies.

The guest room is still a pretty big disaster, but I'm slowly getting it more organized!

Friday, January 3, 2014

when you can't find what you want, build it yourself

Here's another post that I wrote several weeks ago and am just now finishing up with pictures and posting...

Awhile ago, I decided that I needed a drawer for the bottom of my closet. Zach has a whole bunch in his closet, but they're cedar and, from what he told me, really expensive. Also, he couldn't seem to tell me where he had gotten them, other than "the Internet." I did some Internet searching, but all I could really find were plastic storage drawers that weren't the right size. 

Then one day, while browsing the blogosphere, I realized that people are building things with drawers, and I should be able to just take the relevant information from that to build a single stand-alone drawer for my closet. Then I found Ana White and pretty much fell in love. She has an amazing site filled with instructions for building probably just about anything you could want. And the site has a good search capability to search through all her projects, which I did, searching only for "drawer." That's how I came upon her tutorial for making an entryway bench with drawer and hutch. The bottom part, the drawer bench, is basically what I wanted, with some minor dimensional tweaks. I got so excited, I couldn't wait to get home to measure my space and start drawing up my plans! I almost left work early, but I exerted some self-control and stayed. But as soon as I got home, I got to work, measuring my closet area, drawing some plans on graph paper, and figuring out how much of what size boards I would need. Then I just wished it was the weekend instead of Wednesday, so I could get started.

Ana White's tutorial is wonderful, with great instructions and drawings, so I won't attempt to recreate it here. Instead, I'll just note where I differed from her plans, which is mainly in the dimensions. After measuring my closet floor, I decided to make my drawer 28" wide, 18" deep, and 10" tall. After lots of drawing and thinking and math, I determined that I should get 9' of 1x18, 4' of 1x8, and 6' of 1x2. As some of you may know, you can't get 1x18 boards. When Ana White says to use boards of odd sizes, she means get plywood and cut it to your needs. I did some more math to figure out what sizes to get my boards pre-cut at Home Depot so they would fit in my car and loaded it all up. Occasionally, I wish I had a truck.

I got all my pieces cut and spray-primed them with Kilz. I thought that would be easier/faster than using regular primer, which takes longer both to apply and to dry.

I assembled the outside using 2" nails. In hindsight, I wish I had used pocket holes/screws. It would have looked nicer and probably would have assembled more cleanly too. I don't have a pocket hole jig, but for the drawer, I borrowed one from my awesome friend who often lets me borrow his tools, and it was great. Pocket hole jig is going on my Christmas wish list! 

I had some difficulty with the drawer fitting, probably due to things not being perfectly square and possibly from slightly off measurements/cutting. I had to do some last-minute sanding and trimming to get it all to work. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be super pretty, since it's going to sit on the floor of my closet, and probably no one but me will ever really see it. I finished the inside of the drawer off with Modge-podge and wrapping paper to cover up the pocket holes and give it a little nicer feel. I definitely learned a lot from this project, so if I did something similar again, it would probably be better. 

4 little reindeer

This post is a few weeks delayed, and I really have no excuse. I wrote it back then and uploaded the pictures to my laptop, but then just never seemed to get around to inserting the pics and posting. As I said, no excuse. But better late than never, right?

I saw these little cork reindeer on Pretty Handy Girl and thought they were super cute. I wanted to do a little something for our friends who let me use their power tools, and since they're pretty into wine, this seemed perfect.

I started making the antlers the way Pretty Handy Girl did, but although I thought hers looked cute, I thought mine looked like cows. So I tried adding some more antlers to try to make them look more like deer. It helped with the look, but was a lot harder to implement. I found it very difficult to push the wire into the cork, even using pliers, so I resorted to drilling small holes. For the antlers, I drilled a hole big enough for 2 or 3 wires, stuck all the wires in the hole, and put some hot glue around to hole them in place. Then I bent the wires as desired to make them look like antlers. For all the other parts, after drilling the hole, I put a dot of hot glue on the hole, then pushed the wire in.

As usual, this project took much longer then I'd anticipated, but it did speed up once I got the hang of it. I think my little reindeer are pretty cute. Hopefully my friends will think so too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

I know I haven't posted in awhile, and this isn't really a post about projects. I'll be back with some more projects soon. This is a post about getting ready for Christmas, which is probably my favorite time of year.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we decorated our house for Christmas. We put up our tree in the nook between staircases between the living and dining rooms. Usually we keep the recycle bin there, so it gets relocated to the dining room sitting area. I love decorating the tree. I love pulling out all the ornaments from their boxes, ones that I'd forgotten about and ones that evoke special memories and nostalgia. Dodger liked helping too.

Before                                                                    After

I got out the snowflake tablecloth and the new candles my mom just got us.
I set out the advent "wreath" I made at Bible study last week.

I put up the nativities on the entertainment center, and I hung our stockings on the mantle in the first-floor rec room. We also have a couple of mini trees for other rooms.

Now our house feels festive and happy!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

brightening up a room with a tablecloth

I love our dining room/sitting room combo area. For some unknown reason, I really wanted a red dining room, and Zach let it happen, and it makes me happy. However, I have often felt that the room feels dark. Maybe 'dark' isn't the right word because there are so many windows and, during the day at least, it's very light and bright in there. Maybe more what I mean is 'all the same tone.' I love the red walls and our hardwood floors and most of our furniture (not totally loving you, slip-covered loveseat, but you're a project for another day). But the floors and most our wood furniture has red undertones. Add in the chocolate brown loveseat and current chocolate brown tablecloth, and even with the sun shining brightly, it still feels like too much of the same dark colors. 

The sitting room side of the room does OK with the reds and golds from the window seat, chair, and throw pillows and the cream and yellow of the side tables, but the dining room side feels too red and brown. For awhile, I thought about painting the dining chairs white and recovering them with a yellow-patterned fabric. Zach was not a fan of that idea. He said, "But YOU picked out those chairs and stained them!" It's true. But that was before we had this house. And a red dining room. And reddish-brown hardwood floors and a reddish-brown giant china cabinet. However, I was afraid that I'd paint the chairs and then hate it, and then it's so much harder to go back to the stain. So then I thought, well, maybe I'd just recover the plain beige seats with a bright pattern. I even ordered a bunch of swatches. But then I thought some more and realized that it would be even easier and less permanent to just get a new tablecloth. DUH! 

So I searched the inter-webs and Home Goods for a tablecloth that would be a nice pattern and just the right yellow-gold to go with the side tables and pillows from the other side of the room. And came up empty-handed. No problem; a tablecloth is super easy to make, so all I needed to find was an appropriate fabric. Back to the Internet, plus JoAnn and Hobby Lobby. I almost bought some fabric at Hobby Lobby back in August, but something about it just didn't seem right. I forgot about it through September, when Zach and I went on a spending hiatus. Then I came back to it as we started to plan to have a bunch of friends over at the end of the month. I ordered some more swatches, this time from fabricguru.com to find the right color. 

None of the swatches I ordered were both a good color and good pattern, but one was a good color, so I went back to fabricguru and searched for just that color and found three promising possibilities. I called Zach in for his opinion and, as often happens when I do that, as he was mulling over the choices, I realized which one I liked best. As occasionally also happens, Zach then picked the same one. 

The fabric came 54" wide. This TLC page recommends making your tablecloth 12" wider and longer than your table. Our table is about 36" x 58", so I ordered 2 yards (72"). The first thing I did when the fabric arrived was wash it, in case it shrunk. And, boy, did it shrink! At 72" long, I should have had 7" overhang on each end. After washing, I had maybe 3" overhang. The width shrunk quite a bit too, but I'd had more leeway there, so it wasn't as big of a deal. Obviously, if I did this again, I'd order more fabric. 

With all the shrinking, I ended up not cutting the fabric at all. I assumed that the uncut sides were perfectly straight and started by hemming them in about 0.5", then folding that up another 0.5" to make a really nice edge. 

Then I used my old brown tablecloth to make the cut edges straight. I pinned the short side of the brown tablecloth about 0.5" in on the already-pinned straight side, then futsed around to get it all laying nice and flat. This created a straight edge along the cut side. I pinned the cut edge up to meet the brown tablecloth edge; in some places, this hem was about 0.25" and in other places it was more than 0.5". Then I moved the brown tablecloth out of the way and folded up the hem another 0.5" for a nice edge. I did the same thing for the other cut end. 

At this point, I hadn't actually sewn anything yet. I pinned all four sides first, so when I got to the sewing part, I could just sew the hem around all four sides in one shot. I used some yellow-gold thread from my cushion project. The fact that the color matched pretty closely was nice validation that I'd picked a good tablecloth color. 

I do wish the tablecloth was a little longer, but it's still acceptable, and it definitely brightens up the dining side of the room, so overall, I'm pretty pleased.



Monday, October 14, 2013

a gift for baby

Spoiler alert!!! If you are a friend of mine (and let's face it, if you read this blog, you probably are), you will now find out what you will get from me if you have a baby :-p

I went to a baby shower this past weekend. Besides the awesome Star Wars onesie that my friends had registered for, I decided to make them a little something else. In my blog-hopping one day, I had come across this video tutorial for making a very simple blanket. I then did some googling to find these more detailed instructions (I like to have written instructions with numbers). I like sewing, so I thought this looked like a fun little project, plus I had the excuse of the baby shower!

In the video, Melanie talks about using "minky" fabric, which I'd never heard of before, so I looked it up and the handy-dandy Internet. It turns out that minky is a micro-fleece, a soft, fuzzy fabric, which sounded perfect for making a super snuggly baby blanket. I went to my local Hobby Lobby and got 4' of red micro-fleece and 3' of a cute star pattern on flannel. My friends are having a girl, but I didn't want it to be too girly. Based on some of their nerd onesie registry items, I thought stars were a good choice.

I'm not going to go into a lot of details here because Melanie's tutorials are great. The micro-fleece came 60" wide, so I cut that down to 46"x46". The flannel came 45" wide, and I cut that down to 36"x36" (since I got 3', I only had to cut one side, which was a bonus). Then I started with Melanie's tutorial (video is probably more helpful), finding the centers of each side of both pieces of fabric, pinning them together (good sides facing in to each other), and sewing each edge. In Melanie's video, she says to do a 0.5" hem if using minky, so that's what I sewed.

Doing the corners was a little tricky, but Melanie's video explains it well. I don't have a cutting mat, but I do have a paper cutter that has a grid on it, so I used that the line up my ruler on a 45-degree angle with the point where the two edge seams met. 

After trimming the excess off the corners, I turned the blanket right-side-out. Stick your finger in each corner to make sure they get turned all the way out. Then came the one, tiny part where I deviated from Melanie's instructions. For closing up the remaining hole, she recommends laying the outer edge fabric flat and folding the middle piece in to meet it (this will make sense if you watch her video). However, I found that everything laid nicer if I laid the flannel flat and folded the fleece under to meet up with the flannel. I also didn't iron it, just pinned it in place and started sewing the final seam.

Here it is -- a close-up of the corner, and the whole, finished blanket. Isn't it adorable? And the micro-fleece is SUPER snuggly!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

weekend hodge-podge

This past weekend was pretty busy with several small-ish projects. I finished a secret project, which I'll share next week (can't share gifts until they've been given!). I hung Zach's Bond pictures on the closet door in his basement movie cave. I re-sized two polo shirts from work a la this post. And I moved some bushes. That's what I'm going to talk about here, though it will probably be one of my less exciting posts. Sorry. If that didn't convince you to stop reading, here you go...

I posted here about my original bush-planting adventures. To refresh, I planted boxwood, dark knight, boxwood, gardenia, boxwood, hibiscus, boxwood, gardenia, boxwood, dark knight, boxwood. Pretty quickly the hibiscus started going downhill; I put it back in its pot inside and replaced it with a solar flare bush. The solar flare was supposed to be native to Maryland, but it died over that first summer. The gardenias were supposed to be frost-proof (that was their name, frost-proof gardenias), but they didn't make it through the winter, which wasn't even that cold. So first thing in the spring, I had replaced the dead solar flare with another dark knight, since the other two were doing really well. I replaced the gardenias with false indigos. Well, those never really took off. One now looks pretty dead, and the other just looks sad. So I'm giving up on other plants and just sticking to dark knights and boxwoods. 

The dark knights have actually done better than anticipated and have spread out more than I had planned, so they're getting a little too cozy with the boxwoods. I suppose I could prune them down, but instead I decided to just move the boxwoods. This would give everything more space and get rid of the need to keep trying to fill in empty areas with other plants that keep dying. 

As is always the case in our land of rocks, digging sucked. Plus, we've been having unseasonably hot weather here the past week. So, I actually only moved three of the six boxwoods. I plan to do the other three this coming Saturday. 

There's not really anything else to tell. The boxwoods now have some room to breathe, so hopefully they'll grow and spread some more and help balance out the enormous dark knights.